World War 1 A Letter From The Trenches WW1
A Soldier Writes Home
Wartime Letters Home
Although Soldiers in the trenches were allowed to send letters home to their loved ones, the letters that they sent were heavily censored by the Ministry of Defence, details of where the soldier was stationed were deleted as were details of any movements that the soldier was involved with, letters home were often unreadable because of the censors.
Families of the soldiers liked to know where there husbands, sons, brothers or fathers were fighting and before they left to go to war would come up with little codes between them that the soldiers could write in their letters to let their loved ones know where they were fighting.
A soldier would maybe write home citing a memory of a family trip to Blackpool letting his family know that he is in France, the Blackpool Tower he mentions in his letter would be the family code word for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Although the censors very quickly became aware of family codes and began to censor them too the codes became even more complex and a lot of families knew where their fighting man was simply because of the first letter of the first word in the letter.
"Being away from my home and family is breaking my heart" B would mean the soldier was stationed in Belgium.
Censoring A Soldiers Letter
An Uncensored Letter Home
For the purposes of this article the letter written below will be uncensored and it will be written from a married soldier to his wife and children, although based on reality the writer of the letter is a fictional character and is not based on any one person.
February 14th 1915
My darling and loving wife Emily
It is Valentine's Day and my thoughts are with you as always, I wish that I could be with you on this special day of love instead of being here in this hell hole which Belgium has become.
I miss you little George and Harry so very much and I pray for the day that this war comes to an end, please pass my love on to the children and kiss them for me.
We arrived at the front line just over a week ago and the smell was so bad that many of the men were sick, to describe the smell would be an impossible task but some of the causes will give you an idea of just how bad it is.
Raw sewage from the open cess pit, body odour from men who haven't had a decent wash for weeks, dead bodies rotting in shallow graves and laying out in the open in no mans land, the smell of exploded bombs and the odour of Mustard gas which lingers for a few days after the attack, stagnant mud cigarette smoke and cooking smells all add to the unpleasantness of the trenches.
They say that we will get used to the smell over time but it feels like it will never leave us at the moment.
The smell attracts rats they are everywhere you look and they seem to be unafraid to show themselves, there is so much waste here that the rats are thriving and some of them are as big as felix our cat.
I shaved my head and my pubic hair yesterday because my hair was crawling with lice most of the men have been scratching and itching almost since the day we got here.
The rain is a constant companion flooding the trenches and turning the floor into mud it is so bad that some of the men are getting sores on their feet and can hardly walk with the pain.
Sleep his so hard to come by with the constant booming and banging of the shells from both sides, my bed is a bunk which has been placed in a dug out section of the trench, a mud roof a mud floor and the constant theat of a stray shell keep me awake at night.
I am scared my darling Emily, my life is under constant threat, bullets randomly fired at us, shells exploding every minute of the day, men are dying all around me if not from a stray bullet or shell they are falling with fever and disease.
Four of the boys in my squad have died already they went through basic training with me and i considered them good friends, my best friend John shot himself in the foot just to get out of here and away from the trenches, he will be treated in a field hospital and sent home.
We are going over the top tonight climbing out of the trench and attacking the enemy trenches
A and B sqaud went last night and most of them were killed or wounded before they even got 10 yards out of the trench, it is barbaric and a futile waste of human life but the powers that be seem to think that it is the way forward and keep sending those poor men and boys to their deaths.
I will close now and pray that this is not the last letter that I will ever send to you my darling, I long to be back at home with you and the children.
I love you with all of my heart
Happy Valentines Day my love
your ever loving Husband
Last Will and Testament
The men fighting in the trenches of World War 1 were in constant fear of losing their lives and many of them wrote letters that contained their Last Will and Testaments to be sent home on the event of their deaths, these were often handed to senior officers along with personal effects such as watches and rings as orders came through that the squad would be going over the top.
Many of the men knew each other before the war and joined the army together, they grew up and went to the same school they worked in the same factories and sad though it seems they also fought and died together.
© 2010 James Paterson